For several years, Garrett Pruter has scoured New York City for lost or discarded ephemera, rummaging through junk shops, estate sales, and old magazines with one vision in mind. Tonight at the Charles Bank Gallery, that vision comes to life when Pruter debuts his first solo exhibition, Mixed Signals. Since graduating from Parsons in 2010, Pruter has steadily built up a following with his disembodied found-art collages, but Mixed Signals marks the culmination of Pruter’s recent work. The images evoke nostalgia for some distant, unknowable past, and yet remain strangely disassociated from it—a dialogue between then and now. Pruter likens his work to “a kind of time travel,” so head over to the Charles Bank gallery tonight and enjoy the ride.
Where did the idea for Mixed Signals come from?
I’ve been collecting discarded images for a few years now. Over time, I started becoming more interested in these found images because of their absence of context. In the images that I was attracted to, there’s this strange tension between their complete ambiguity and the hyper-specific moment in time they actually represent. As I started researching themes of memory, time, and loss, the images started to become, in a way, relics of the past, a way to physically draw connections and create dialogs between different periods in time. This was a really exciting idea to me because it was a way to get outside my own head and to revive and alter existing imagery. There’s a tension between moments recalled and moments forgotten; every cut-out fragment is replaced by another image, ultimately creating abstractions that blur the line between reality and imagined reality. The project evolved into a study of the frailty of memory, a comparison between the mental deterioration of experiences over time and the physical decay of photographs through the same time period.
What was the most important element of this project’s creation?
One of the most important and consuming things of these works was finding the right images to work with. The photographs had to be flawed in many ways, but still visually compelling. The images I was drawn to were the ones that were most clearly discarded; photographs that were washed out, overexposed and scratched up. When they are blown up, these flaws end up becoming really important parts of the composition. It was important to find images that had authenticity to them. It’s so easy for vintage and nostalgic imagery to come off as cheesy, especially with all of those programs like Instagram, where kale and avocado salads are made to look like they are from the ’40s. But I think it’s different when you find an image that has actually gone through the passage of time. There’s a truthfulness that can’t be replicated in the bent corners, scratched surfaces, and hand-written captions on the back of the photographs.
As an artist, what does having your first solo exhibition in New York mean to you?
It’s a great opportunity, and I’m so thankful to Charles Bank Gallery for taking a chance on me. Even though I am young, it’s something that I have been working towards for a very long time. Being tasked with creating a body of work at this scale has been incredibly informative and I am excited to see where it goes next.
Are you nervous for your opening?
I’m not the most graceful of people, especially under pressure. There’s a good chance that I will do something really embarrassing, like fall into one of the pieces and have them all come crashing down in a domino-like effect. But I think at the very least it will be a fun night and a huge weight off of my shoulders.
In your scavenger hunt for found objects and photographs, what were some of your most memorable discoveries?
I find my images from a lot of different places, which is why it is so weird when you come across an image of the same subject twice. But over the past few years, I have found five or six different images of this exact same bouquet of flowers, all taken from different angles, but clearly taken of the same arrangement, in the same room, at the same time. And each of these photos has come from a completely separate place. It’s as if somebody took 200 photos of this one specific assortment of flowers and then spread them across the country. I think that is the weirdest thing. Who would do that?
Celebrate the opening of Mixed Signals tonight at the Charles Bank Gallery, 196 Bowery. 6-9pm.